While demonstrations, protests and marches continue in half of the country, aiming at the president’s resignation and the closure of Congress, the government response includes appeals for calm made by the president Dina Boluarte and a harsh repression by the police and the army. This has so far led to around 50 deaths and hundreds of injuries, in addition to the declaration of a state of emergency. Thus, the Boluarte government has been aligning itself with the profile of its partners in the right-wing sector of the political spectrum.
In search of a definition
A month ago, after Boluarte took office as a result of Pedro Castillo’s failed self-coup, the country’s political course was much more undefined. By mid-January, the definition had become clearer after a change in prime minister, who was replaced after just 11 days in office, the multiplication of protests and the violent repression that led three ministers to resign as a sign of disagreement.
Boluarte is supported by right-wing groups that represent just over a third of the seats in Congress and that have received recognition through the appointment of some ministers and senior positions in the Executive. The president gives frequent speeches in which she apologizes for those who were shot at the hands of law enforcement and supported the proposal to bring elections forward. However, it is still pending the establishment of the date of the next general elections that will be held in 2023 or 2024, instead of 2026, given the demands of the protesters.
Some of the appointments made by Boluarte indicate the direction in which his administration leans. Education Minister Óscar Becerra, who has a multidisciplinary background, was linked to a parliamentary investigation as involved in the purchase of computers at overpriced prices during Alan García’s second government (2006-2011), a matter that did not lead to action. judicial. His participation in social networks shows him aligned with the ideas of those who question the assessment of university quality by the National Superintendence of Higher Education (Sunedu) and who, in the name of university autonomy, defend the proliferation of private for-profit universities.
He showed his political tendencies in a presentation to a congressional commission, in which he stated: “We have to detect through the intelligence services those elements that intend to undermine the democratic foundations of our society (…) I regret to admit that they are infiltrated in the teaching and the Ministry of Education, we cannot allow this”.
The Minister of the Interior, Vicente Romero, is the third in that portfolio so far, in the first month and a half of the Boluarte government. He is a general of the National Police who has been close to four presidents of the Republic. However, a video circulating on social media shows him delivering Alberto Fujimori’s propaganda calendars during his presidential term. So far in his term, and given the actions of the forces of law and order, 18 civilians have been killed while participating in protests in the Juliaca region.
Due to disturbances (punctuated by riots, as is often the case in these expressions of spillover), the government’s response has been compared with the case of Brazil. In the Bolsonarist demonstrations that invaded Congress and the headquarters of the judiciary, there were 1,500 detainees, but not a single person was killed.
In the case of Peru, the Prime Minister, Alberto Otárola, declared in Congress: “We will act firmly in the face of fundamentalist and messianic extremism and any form of totalitarianism driven by violent infiltrators of all kinds.”
The assimilation of protest to terrorism is a repeated conservative thesis, whose foundation was announced by the spokesperson for the right-wing sector in Congress. Retired Admiral Jorge Montoya recited the following on Twitter: “If the principle of authority is not re-established, all is lost. The forces of law and order must be allowed to fire. It is extremely dangerous to continue like this.”
How long can Boluarte’s presidency last?
Boluarte, who described herself as “a left-wing provincial woman”, confesses that she does not understand the protests that have spread across the country in recent weeks. It seems that when she took office (for which, two days earlier, she was exonerated in Congress of a charge that could have prevented her from continuing as vice president) she did not have a clear direction. She appointed a notoriously incompetent prime minister and a cabinet made up of technicians. The protests that took place a few days later (and probably some kind of approximation and agreement with right-wing sectors of Congress) led her to change course and appoint representatives of the “hard hand” to high positions.
However, his disapproval of the presidency increased by three percentage points in January to reach 71%, according to the IPSOS survey, which details that rejection is higher in the interior of the country (79%) than in Lima (57%). . The disapproval of Prime Minister Otárola is lower, but also majority (61%), and that of Congress rose to 80%. Likewise, an overwhelming majority favors bringing elections forward.
According to a survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studies, 58% of Peruvians believe that the security agencies committed excesses in repressing the protests, but half of them said they felt identified with them. And support for the demand for a new Constitution rose from 47% in May to 69% in January.
It is not clear how to overcome a situation that seems to be stuck and feeds itself with voices calling for civil war. On January 10, the Board of Directors of the National Assembly of Regional Governments declared that the deaths that occurred are “the product of popular protest and government actions” and reiterated its position “so that the advance of the general elections with the presidential and of Congress takes place immediately”, as an effective solution to the political crisis. In addition, it requested the “sanction of those who committed acts of vandalism against public and private infrastructure”.
Certainly, the resignation of a stunned Dina Boluarte does not offer a solution to the country’s fundamental problems. However, it would be an outlet for the pressure of a social tide triggered by Pedro Castillo’s coup d’état, his vacancy and arrest, but which has deep roots in secular neglect, tinged with discrimination and contempt, suffered by vast sectors of Peru.
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